Commonwealth Heads of Government must push Sri Lanka on human rights

The Commonwealth Secretary-General and Commonwealth Heads of Government must press Sri Lanka to strengthen respect for human rights and the rule of law, according to a coalition of leading human rights organisations from around the world. In an open letter to the Commonwealth Secretary General, leading NGOs - including Human Rights Watch, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and the Human Rights Law Centre - have called on the Commonwealth to "press for adequate and satisfactory human rights progress in Sri Lanka by CHOGM 2013." The letter says that "the failure of the Commonwealth and its members to do so would be contrary to the Commonwealth’s values and principles, and undermine its credibility."

Drawing attention to the grave and "ongoing human rights violations in Sri Lanka", the NGO coalition says that Sri Lanka should be required to make discernable progress in the following areas if it is to host CHOGM in 2013:

  1. Fully restore the rule of law;
  2. Lift restrictions on the enjoyment of all fundamental freedoms for all people within its borders;
  3. Restore Constitutional provisions that guarantee separation of powers and re-instate the independence of the three branches of government;
  4. Restore the independence of government institutions such as the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission and ensure meaningful domestic implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
  5. Repeal or amend laws, including the Prevention of Terrorism Act, that do not conform to international human rights standards;
  6. Institute effective mechanisms to protect journalists, civil society groups and human rights defenders who work for the promotion and protection of human rights;
  7. Allow full and credible international investigations into all allegations concerning violations of international humanitarian law in the country; and
  8. Fulfil all recommendations directed to it by the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts and those recommendations of its own LLRC that are consistent with the recommendations of the UN Panel.

The letter concludes that, "In the context of the ongoing Commonwealth reform process, only such principled action by the Commonwealth Secretariat will be indicative of the official Commonwealth’s willingness to truly reform itself and to apply values of human rights, good governance and democracy".